Sunday, February 24, 2013

His Grace in Friendships

Because I've chosen "grace" as my one-word resolution or focus for this year, I thought it would be wise to chronicle what I'm learning on here so that I won't forget the nuances that He has been faithful to show me. 

Grace is so difficult to wrap my mind around, but at a most basic level, grace is something that I haven't worked for and can't earn.  My friend Krista often uses the term "grace gift," and that is what so many people are in my life.  The Lord has blessed me with friendships that I could have never dreamed of and has sustained friendships over the years and over the miles, even without a lot of effort or work on my part. 

On New Year's Eve in 1991, I went to babysit a little girl and a little boy, whom I had babysat before on several occasions.  But on that night in addition to those two children, I was also asked to babysit two other boys, one of whom was nine and a half and the other of whom was almost four years old.  It was a bit of a wild ride to try to keep them all entertained, but we survived the night without any major incidents.  Shortly thereafter, the mother of the two boys started having me babysit on a regular basis.  She lived in a gorgeous home, and it was fun to "play house" while I was there.  The boys were well-behaved for the mostpart, though they did throw me for a few loops, such as the Sunday when the younger boy did not want to wear underwear to church and the Sunday when the older boy did not want to go to church.  Thankfully, my persuasion skills must have been at an all-time high because I "won" on both accounts without bribery and only had to concede that the older boy could come to my Sunday school class with me in lieu of going to the one for his age group. 

Those boys ultimately moved to Austin, and I went off to college and didn't see them regularly.  But over the past several years, the Lord has allowed our paths to cross again as we share a love for the Longhorns. 

And by His grace, I was there last year shortly after the older boy's first child was born.

And I was there this year for her one-year birthday celebration.

But this is just one example of many.

I met Momma Bean (I think after Chapel one day) in college.  We were merely acquaintances on campus.  But the Lord orchestrated for us to become roommates my final year in college, for us to later become roommates in grad school, and for our paths to cross a third time as we lived in the same city for a while.  I hope the Lord allows our paths to cross many more times and puts our rooms next to each other in Heaven because we can pick up right where we last left off and chat forever.

I met my friend Becky during an internship while I was in grad school.  I later accepted a position at the place where I interned, and Becky and I were in a Bible study together.  That was over twelve years ago, and we still check in weekly with one another and lift one another up in prayer.

I met my friend Melissa on a prayer retreat.  We both arrived late and ended up getting a back room that had only three people in it (the two of us plus the gal I rode with).  The friendship we struck up there almost twelve years ago was fortified when we joined a small group together and has been sustained by the Lord's grace as Melissa is now married and has two children on top of being a professor.

I met my friend Susie in that same small group with Melissa.  We no longer attend the same church, but the Lord has kept our friendship going strong.

And then there's Krista, whom I met online through another friend's blog.  Chances are that I had met her before because she is my neighborhood pharmacist, but it was the blog connection that God used to start a friendship.

This list could go on and on, but these are just a few examples of the many creative ways that the Lord has used to plant God-fearing friends in my life.  He has given me immeasurably more than I could have asked for or imagined when it comes to the quantity and quality of friendships that I have; I could not have earned this favor or these friends.  The plain and simple truth is that they are all grace gifts from the Lord.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February Update

There are a few topics swirling around in this head of mine, but none have had time to gel.  So I thought I'd give a monthly update because it has already been almost a month since the last one.

What I'm Pondering
I'm reading through the Gospel of Luke right now, and I was struck by the transition in Chapter 4.  The chapter begins with Jesus being tempted in the desert. After the devil departs in verse 13, the heading before verse 14 says, "Jesus Begins His Ministry."  I think I've glossed over the fact that Jesus began His ministry after a time of testing and temptation.  It encourages me to take my struggles and find a way to minister to others so that my struggles can be used for His glory.

What I'm Listening To:
I'm still listening to Chris Tomlin's Burning Lights quite a bit, but I also downloaded All Sons & Daughters' new EP called The Longing.  I saw a recommendation for this album on Twitter, and I'm so glad that I checked them out.  The harmonies of this worship duo are absolutely beautiful.

I also downloaded the audio of Romans to help with memorizing Chapter 1.  I need all the help I can get as I'm struggling with this much more than I did when I memorized Psalm 91.

What I'm Reading:
I've been reading in every spare moment lately, and I've finished most of the books that I had started last year.  From those I've finished, I gleaned a lot about truth, love, and grace and the interplay between those concepts from Tim & Kathy Keller's The Real Meaning of Marriage; I learned more about being the hands and feet of Jesus from Brandon Hatmaker's book Barefoot Church; I whipped through the pages of Christine Caine's book Undaunted as she told of her upbringing and her heart's desire to rescue women from sex-trafficking; and I laughed uncontrollably through the bulk of Melanie Shankle's debut memoir Sparkly Green Earrings.

Currently, I'm slowly going through Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick.  It's quite possible that I've never underlined this much before in a book.  Fitzpatrick writes about the Gospel for Believers, and I'm trying to soak up every word.  Everything she writes keeps pointing me back to my one-word resolution of "grace."

I told my mother earlier today that I wish I could just eat books.  I'm such a slow reader and there are so many books that I want to read that I'd love to digest one each meal!  That's probably a weird visual, but it fits.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


After a crazy workload last month, even working on a holiday, I finally waved the white flag and decided to take some time off.  I used to be disciplined about taking a vacation day every so often as a mental health holiday.  But over the past year or so, I've gotten into the habit of taking time off only when I have something planned or will be out of town. 

That changed this past week.

I saw that I didn't have anything planned for this weekend and thought it would be a good time for a mental health vacation.  I left work at lunch on Thursday feeling a little bit like a truck had run over me, but it was just mountain cedar.  After a three-hour nap, I was as a good as new.  Make that Exhibit A of why I needed to take some time off.

I've enjoyed more than just that nap over the past three and a half days.  During that time, the Lord seemed to be writing a prescription for this introvert's heart and mind to rest while simultaneously being recharged and renewed.  Some of the highlights have included:

--the three-hour nap (worth mentioning again)
--no forced bedtimes
--no being awakened by an alarm clock
--leisurely lunch at The Kimbell
--a long hot bath
--a walk at TCU (would have taken a couple more, but oh the mountain cedar!)
--dinner with a friend at a new restaurant and crafts afterwards (making a t-shirt to match my pajama pants)
--finishing three of the four books I'd already started
--sipping Barney & Sons Pomegranate Oolong hot tea or Trader Joe's Organic Hot Chocolate almost every day

Ideally, I would have loved to have spent this time at a scenic cabin or a pretty lakehouse, but the fact that I was at my house meant no packing or travel, which also has its perks.  And, I was able to run some errands and get some chores done during brief spurts when I was able to pull myself away from reading.

But I admit that this wasn't a guilt-free time of relaxation.  There always seems to be this twinge of guilt over taking time off for myself rather than using my time off in a more sacrificial way. 

How do you balance the two?  I'd love some insight.  And I'd enjoy hearing what your perfect prescription for recharging is.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Grasping and Giving Grace

It's already February, but I'm just now getting around to posting my one-word resolution for 2013.  The word I've chosen this year is "grace."  And, I must say that it is stretching me.

As a first-born, Type A, rule-follower, I naturally tend toward a Pharisee-type approach to life, that is everyone should follow the rules, just like I do.  It wasn't a stretch when I chose a career that puts a premium on obeying the law and has very little, if any, provision for grace. 

It's just been during the past few years that I've realized how little I've understood about grace.  And this realization came despite having accepted Christ almost twenty-five years ago.

So as I pondered what word might capture the theme for this year, "grace" kept coming to mind.  I want to grasp it, not tangibly in my hands, but to gain a deeper understanding.  And then to give it to others as freely as God gives it to me.

But looking at my actions in January through the lens of grace, I failed.  Not just a little.  A lot.  I want justice at every turn.  That's my first reaction.  So it's obvious that it is going to take every bit of the remaining days in 2013 to reprogram my heart and mind, with the Lord's help, to react with grace first.  And to rest in that, knowing that God can hand out any justice that needs to be doled out.

Thankfully, I'm not on my own in trying to make these crucial changes.  I'm grateful that His Word says, "The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live."  Deuteronomy 30:6

How are you doing with your resolutions?